German officials carry talks with tourist kidnappers

Other News Materials 23 September 2008 16:39 (UTC +04:00)

German officials are negotiating with the kidnappers of 11 tourists and eight Egyptians who went missing on Friday in Egypt's southern desert during a safari trip, sources in the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism said on Tuesday.

Negotiations for the release of the eleven Europeans, including five Germans, five Italians, a Romanian, and the eight Egyptian guides, are ongoing, said the sources, who declined to give their names, reported dpa.

The German Foreign Ministry set up a crisis team immediately after reports of abduction surfaced on Monday afternoon, German officials said.

"We are still working on the assumption that it is an abduction," a spokesman for the German Foreign Ministry said. "We are undertaking intensive efforts to resolve the situation."

The spokesman declined to say whether negotiations were taking place with the kidnappers or whether a ransom would be paid.

Sources at the tourism ministry said that Egypt was "monitoring the negotiations," without giving further details.

Conflicting reports have said that a ransom of between six and 15 million dollars (four - 10 million euros) had been demanded for their release.

The nineteen people were kidnapped on Friday while they were taking part in a visit to the Gilf Kebir, a scenic area in the Egyptian Western Desert. News of the abduction only emerged on Monday when one of the Egyptian tour guides telephoned his German wife to raise the alarm.

The identity of the kidnappers has not yet been ascertained, although the Egyptian Foreign Ministry has said that bandits, not terrorists, were behind the grab.

Al-Jazeera news channel, quoting unnamed Egyptian officials, said on Tuesday that the hijackers were a gang from Chad.